Several years ago CIO.com published an article titled “How to Choose the Right Software Vendor”, which offers some valuable insight to help organizations decide on some of the most important relationships that impact their daily workflow.
The article breaks the decision-making process down into several important areas, which we further shed light on below, especially as it relates to the growing youth sports industry:
- Figure out what it is you really need – Before talking with any potential new business partners, get your team together internally to discuss any current hurdles or challenges, along with desired improvements to your workflow. As Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks indicates, “If you know what you want, ideally separated into a must-have list and a nice-to-have list, it will be much easier to figure out if any given solution fits your business–and to resist ‘shiny’ things.” In simple words, make sure the solution you’re considering actually meets your needs.
- Check the software provider’s credentials and certificates – This is especially important in today’s volatile youth sports technology market. With the amount of consolidation, acquisition and unfortunate failure; it’s crucial to understand the foundation of the companies you’re partnering with: How long have they been in business? How has their technology grown over time? What types of partnerships do they have? Are they PCI Certified? How sound is their infrastructure? What is their data model and how will they protect your member data?
- What do other customers have to say? This may likely be one of the most critical questions. Ask for references and find out how long they’ve been a customer, how their technology needs are being met, and how supportive, responsive and knowledgeable their team is. Chat with other organizations in your network to find out what the company’s reputation is.
- Can it scale? This is an important question as it relates to future growth and emerging technology; has the company shown the ability to scale over time to meet market demands and to grow with your evolving needs? Malcolm Cowley, CEO of the Performance Horizon Group, hits the nail on the head when he said, “The last thing CIOs and other technology decision-makers want to be faced with is the need to re-evaluate and invest in a new solution two or three years down the road, when the existing system can’t handle the company’s emerging needs.” Before talking about price, first make sure the solution will meet your needs, both now and according to your growth plan. If the solution doesn’t meet your needs, cost is irrelevant.
- Check for hidden or additional fees. Make sure you understand the full financial impact of the partnership:
- Evaluate setup fees, recurring fees, and usage fees such as per player/per team fees.
- If you’re processing online transactions, it’s imperative to calculate the total cost of credit card transaction fees – not only the various percentages across card types, but also per transaction fees, monthly gateway/account fees, etc.
- Review the fine details of the agreements’s termination clause. Are you locked in for multiple years? Are there any early termination fees?
- Equally important is to understand any additional fees you may incur due to any software deficiencies you uncover. Will there be any third party costs you’d have to incur to fill any gaps? Will there be any extra hard or soft costs due to lack of integration across platforms?
- Who gets custody of your data? Most especially in the world of youth sports where member data has turned into a perceived “gold rush” of the current decade, it’s important to remember that your organization owns your member data (or at least you should). Be sure to find out before you enter into a new vendor agreement what they will do with your valuable member data while you’re a client, as well as after you leave. These are crucial questions to ask to ensure protection and privacy of your members.
- Will they use your member data for financial gain?
- Will they market to or sell off your data?
- How easy will it be to get access to your data after you move on?
- Will there be a fee to obtain your data once the partnership is over?
- Take a test drive. Now that you’ve had a chance to identify with your team what your must-haves and nice-to-haves are, make sure the software you’re considering meets your needs. Go through a full demo of how the tools will address your specific needs. Ask the vendor if they will provide access to a demo site, or if there’s a free trial option that will allow you to test the system before you commit to pay.
Navigating the waters of vendor research can be cumbersome and even frustrating at times, but these steps will guide you to help ensure you’re making the best decision possible, given the specific needs of your organization.
Demosphere has been serving the youth sports community since our humble beginnings in 1990, and we commit to bringing experience, authenticity, integrity and a strong sense of community to the conversation. If you’re interested in evaluating integrated solutions to help solve some of your complex technology needs, we invite you to contact us today!
Demosphere’s mission is to provide authentic, industry-leading technology solutions for organized sports, accommodating the needs of all levels of organizations, and all levels of users, with an ethical approach in how to impact the greater community.